How visual information is processed and transformed in the nervous system is a fundamental question in vision research. Given its clear importance in visually-guided behaviors and the available genetic tools, the mouse superior colliculus (SC) holds great promise for understanding visual signal transformation and its mechanisms. The SC is a layered structure important for multimodal integration and sensorimotor transformation, and its superficial layers are purely visual and receive direct retinotopic inputs from the retina. In his proposal, the investigators will study the brain circuitry and synaptic mechanisms underlying the important transformations that take place in the retinocollicular pathway, especially the processing of motion direction. First, 2-photon calcium imaging will be performed to determine the direction selectivity of individual SC neurons and their spatial organization. These experiments will establish whether there is a depth-, region-, and/or cell type-specific organization of direction selectivity in the superficial SC, thereby forming a foundation for the following aims. Second, the investigators will determine the response properties of the retinal input that project to the SC. Genetically-encoded calcium indicators will be expressed in retinal ganglion cells and 2- photon imaging will be performed to visualize their axonal terminals in the colliculus. Third, the methods of imaging retinal terminals and collicular neurons will be used in a line of transgenic mice where retinocollicular projections are spatially altered, in order to determine whether direction selective retinal input is required for the direction selectivity in th SC. Finally, the investigator will perform in vivo whole cell recording to study visually-evoked responses in the SC. These experiments will be performed in transgenic mice where excitatory SC neurons can be silenced by optogenetic stimulation, thereby exposing the retinal input to the recorded cells. By comparing the selectivity of the total and retinal input to individual SC neurons, these experiments will start to reveal the synaptic mechanisms underlying the processing and transformation of direction selectivity in the retinocollicular pathway. Together, these experiments will generate important data needed for a complete understanding of visual processing in the brain. Because normal visual processing is compromised in a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as dyslexia, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders, these studies will provide insights for the understanding and treatment of these disorders.
A long-term goal of our research is to reveal the brain circuitry and synaptic mechanisms of visual signal processing and transformation. Because normal visual processing is compromised in a number of neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as dyslexia, schizophrenia and autism spectrum disorders, our studies will provide important insights for the understanding and treatment of these disorders.
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